Russia's Putin says threat of nuclear war should not be underestimated

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow Russia

Mr Putin said there were a growing tendency to underestimate the threat of nuclear war, and criticised President Trump's plan to withdraw from a key nuclear treaty with Russian Federation.

"For mankind this is very bad, because it will take us to a unsafe point", Putin said, expressing concern about moves to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, including the USA decision to produce lower-yield missiles.

"They need an external threat to cement North Atlantic Treaty Organisation unity", Putin said, accusing the US and its allies of exploiting "phobias of the past" to achieve domestic political goals.

The Russian leader made the remarks at his annual end of the year news conference.

Ryabkov accused Washington of "extremely intrusive" attempts to shine a light on Russian rocket manufacturing and said that Washington had in the past rebuffed Russian requests to look inside U.S. submarines under another arms control treaty. Are the Americans not interested, do they not need them?

He described British accusations of Russian involvement in the poisoning of a former spy in Salisbury as part of Western efforts to isolate and weaken Russia.

Putin warned that "there is a trend of lowering the threshold" of using nuclear weapons, adding that "lowering the threshold could lead to a global nuclear catastrophe". "Of course, we'll have to ensure our own security".

"As for ruling the world, we know where the headquarters trying to do that are located, and the place isn't Moscow", he said, noting that the Pentagon's annual budget of over $700 billion dwarfs Russia's defense spending of $46 billion.

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"Let them decide, it's none of our business, or otherwise they will accuse us again if anything [happens]", he said. "That's disrespect of voters", Mr Putin said. He accused his Ukrainian counterpart of provoking a naval standoff with Russian Federation to boost his electoral prospects.

Putin reaffirmed the long-held Russian argument that the USA presence in Syria is illegitimate because it hasn't been vetted by the UN Security Council or approved by Assad's government. The Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 seamen when they tried to sail from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov in what the USA and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies condemned as unjustified use of force by Russia.

President Putin began the press conference, as usual, by reeling off economic growth figures.

"I believe humanity has the necessary common sense and desire to survive so as to avoid these extremes".

Mr Putin said the economy grew 1.7 percent over the first 10 months of the year, roughly in line with predictions, while unemployment was down.

The Russian president noted that the nation's hard currency reserves have increased from $432 billion at the start of the year to $464 billion now.

Russia's economy registered a 1.5% growth last year following the two-year stagnation.

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